The system of social assistance supports provides payments based on an income need. The means test plays a critical role in determining whether or not an income need arises as a consequence of a particular contingency – such as disability, unemployment or caring. This ensures that the recipient has a verifiable income need and that resources are targeted to those who need them most.
By its nature, the means test takes account of the income a person or couple has in terms of cash, property - other than the family home - and capital. It does not take account of a person’s expenditure. In line with most social assistance payments, deductions permitted for carer's allowance include PRSI, union dues, superannuation (pension contributions) and travel expenses. Uniquely in the system, an income disregard of €332.50 per week or €665 for a couple applies to carer's allowance.
Including costs such as visits to the cinema and attractions visits would have significant budgetary implications and would give rise to inconsistencies in how means tests are applied across schemes. It would also significantly increase the complexity of the means assessment. Any changes in this regard would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.
However, the carer's support grant is an annual non-means tested payment made by my Department to carers. This €1,700 grant may be used in whatever way the carer wishes.
I recognise the crucial role that carers play in Irish society and will continue to seek to improve the supports for carers. However, any changes must be considered in an overall budgetary context.